Hyundai is more famous for value for money than the performance of its cars – but that could be about to change! The firm has already launched its rear-wheel-drive Genesis Coupé to rave reviews in the US and Korea, and as it considers whether to bring the muscular 2+2 to the UK, we put it through its paces.
Of course, Hyundai is no stranger to the sporty two-door market – since the Nineties, it has been selling its affordable Coupé.
The current version has proved popular, particularly since production of its main rival, the Toyota Celica, ended in 2005. It offers an appealing blend of good looks and a price of less than £18,000. However, the front-wheel-drive chassis isn’t much fun, and the 2.0-litre petrol engine isn’t powerful enough for the car to be considered a true performance model.
Thankfully, the new Genesis Coupé is a fresh design and, as soon as you see it, you can’t help but be impressed. Its flowing body is certainly distinctive, and the unique window lines turn heads.
A purposeful stance comes courtesy of a short front overhang combined with muscular rear haunches. Attractive sporty details – including distinctive headlights, chrome exhaust pipes and neat red-painted Brembo brake calipers – mean the Hyundai is undoubtedly eye-catching.
It’s built on an all-new platform which, unlike the maker’s European offerings, is rear-wheel drive. It’s been developed specifically for the Coupé and the firm’s new Genesis luxury saloon. Despite overly light steering that feels out of place on a car such as this, it’s agile and changes direction willingly.
There’s plenty of front-end grip and a real feeling of composure to the chassis, even if you turn into corners too quickly. But while the handling gets the thumbs-up, the ride doesn’t. The suspension struggles to suppress bumpy surfaces.
Beneath the bonnet, there’s a choice between 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder and 3.8-litre V6 petrol engines. We tried the bigger powerplant, which combines a 306bhp output with a gloriously throaty rumble that manages to sound smooth and composed even at the 7,000rpm red line.
A six-speed manual is available, but our car was equipped with the six-ratio automatic transmission. This provides smooth changes, and paddles on the steering column allow you to shift up and down yourself. Sadly, as with the steering, gearchanges are too light – the box feels more like that in a city car than a sporty model. Still, the Brembo brakes offer strong stopping power and solid pedal feel.
Inside, the Genesis has a pleasingly well built cockpit. There’s a classy blue glow to the hooded instruments, as well as a multi-adjustable driving position and comfortable seats. Top-spec versions get soft leather upholstery, so it’s a shame more thought wasn’t given to the scratchy centre console and cheap-looking open cup-holders on entry-level models. However, there’s room in the back for two small adults and the boot is surprisingly practical.
The Coupé’s real strength is its price – in the US, it starts at around £18,000. If the Hyundai comes to our shores, it’s likely to cost around £24,000, making it a viable alternative to the likes of Nissan’s 370Z and the Audi TT. But its price tag shouldn’t disguise the fact that it’s also good enough to compete with these cars; it’s a true contender.
Rival: Audi TT
THE TT is hard to fault. It is beautifully built, looks fantastic and drives well. In addition, there is a great range of engines to pick from – so it remains one of the UK’s most desirable coupés.
* Price: £24,000 (est)
* Engine: 3.8-litre V6
* Power/torque: 306bhp/360Nm
* Transmission: Six-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
* 0-60mph: 6.3 seconds
* Top speed: 149mph
* Economy: 26.4mpg
* Equipment: Electric windows, stability control, air-conditioning, tyre pressure monitoring system, powered/heated mirrors, leather upholstery
* On sale: 2011